A/N: And so, here the tale truly comes to an end. Shikimi's life, epilogue style! I'll be back with something new, I promise. Hopefully just as interesting for you all, if not infinitely more fabulous. Thank you for your time, and your patience. I appreciate it all. All of us know how much I love all of these characters, and goodbyes make me sad, so please just read on whilst I weep. D:

The earth around him seemed to glow a dull, muted purple. The hanging flowers and drooping vines surrounding him, brushed his shoulders and stroked his neck softly. A small tickle would be the only thing left behind in its wake. It was met with no movement. He did not tighten a single muscle in his body.

Shikimi was relaxed.

His eyes were closed and his mouth was set in a firm, thin line. All the sounds of the earth seemed distant. He felt peace. A slow, easy, tangible peace that seemed to embrace every molecule that created his large, strong frame.

Shikimi's eyes fluttered open softly.

The air was warm and still. It was fragrant with the scent of the fruit trees and the rains and the flowers. It was a feminine smell, he decided. It reminded him of a woman. Not in the similarity of their scent, but in the personification of the fragrance. It was warm, and soft; strong, and yet gentle; smooth, and seductive. It reminded him of women.

Today was the day he always spent thinking. Spent thinking of her. Eighteen years ago today, the two had come to this very spot and seen the wonder that it truly was. While everything in the world continued to change, some things would always stay the same. This very spot was one of the magical few that would remain completely untouched by time's grasping hand.

Everything felt very similar, in this place. Everything seemed to remain the same: the smell, the colors, the peace that seemed to exude from here. The general atmosphere was unchanged, though time had indeed passed.

Shikimi took a slow step forwards, looking into the black sheet of water. His reflection looked back at him with a stoic expression he could no longer feel himself making. Eighteen years ago, he had looked at his reflection in this very pool water. The Lilly pads and lotuses still floated on the water, just as they did then. Though he no longer looked the same.

Time had come and taken hold of his once youthful features. His eyes had deep lines set in on the outside, and his skin had begun to look a little bit looser than it had before. His eyes were tired and dull with the responsibilities life had bestowed upon him: husband, father, father-in-law, grandpa, chieftain… His hair was also growing tired, no longer a simple Mohawk, but three: along the middle of his skull, and on either side. His headdress was now permanent. His former wrap had been exchanged for something more elaborate.

His family unit had grown substantially over the past nearly-two-decades. He had recently taken his third wife, whom he was expecting his first son from shortly. Though he had been down the road of paternity going on twelve times now, she was absolutely ecstatic, having never been a mother before. She was still young, of course, only fourteen winters, but he expected many good warriors from her. She had a good line of genes, Vukaza, did.

Lenyunai had already done more than her fair share, bearing him five sons and two daughters, one of which was now in wedlock, and expecting, yet again. Jyranki, his second wife, had given him only one son but three daughters, which he wouldn't admit were probably his biggest annoyance, and greatest amusement. The three girls, while unusually lively, and loud, were also easily a great source of entertainment, and ever mindful of their father's authority in the household.

His oldest son, Hyra, was still a boy, only sixteen winters, but growing into his role of a public figure nicely. He was strong and virile, just as he had been in his days of glory. Of course, Shikimi was still just as powerful, but his role in the village took on a much more diplomatic stance.

Wjro'burankunipani had passed six winters ago, and Shikimi was the next in line. Six years ago, Zurahbi had become his own little kingdom. The community was stronger than ever, and the people maintained their unity.

Shikimi looked around the spot he stood in, slowly. His little glade. His own little safe haven. The air was littered with small beads of light floating flawlessly on the wind, as if rehearsed. Lightening bugs. They flitted around his body with no fear, or hesitation. On the ground he heard a little grunt as a shadow hopped into his view. Shikimi released a low snort.

"Suna," He called. "You're not going to catch them that way." His youngest son looked up at him from where he sat, crouched on the ground, stalking his prey.

"But daddy, how else do you catch them?" He whined. Suna was not even six winters, and so he did not yet possess the poise and elegancy of his brother, Hyra.

"You must be patient, my son," He chuckled, as the child looked up at him with a profound pout. "Stop your sulking, now," Suna's expression immediately turned into a scowl.

"I'm not sulking," He insisted, leaping up to stand before his father. He had a lot of growing up to do, still having to arch his back to see Shikimi's face, all the way up where it was. A moment passed them and Shikimi's hand suddenly shot out, snatching something out of the air. Suna jolted slightly at the action and grinned when Shikimi released the little lightening bug before his eyes. Shikimi smirked and placed a hand on the child's head, ruffling his black hair.

Suna looked up at him with large aqua eyes, filled with admiration. His children often looked at him this way. He even caught Hyra looking over at him with an almost childlike wonderment on occasion. Of course, his son, the moment he was caught, would mask this expression with a perfectly placed vapid one.

He used to look at his father the same way. He remembered being in his offspring's position. Being the son (or daughter) of the chief. It was a strange feeling to know that your parent was somehow seen in the world you lived in as exceptionally important. Suna was still understanding what the village knew about his father that he didn't.

His dad was the guy who put him to bed, and carried him on his shoulders, and insisted on monitoring his diet, and taught him how to catch bugs. Everyone else seemed to think he had some sort of significance that little Suna couldn't fathom. Shikimi knew that as he gained years, he would gain wisdom, and allowed him his childhood innocence. The way Suna saw it, through his young eyes, the only difference between his daddy and anyone else in the village in that Shikimi wore a headdress, and no one else did. This did not strike him as a matter of importance, just a matter of fashion.

"What are you thinking about?" Suna asked innocently. Shikimi looked down at his boy who stared at him, wide-eyed.

"Just reminiscing," Shikimi muttered.

"Oh," Suna mumbled. Shikimi smirked.

"Do you know what that means?" He asked. Suna shook his head after a moment of hesitation. "It means to think about the past." He explained. The boy grinned.

"What are you reminiscing about, daddy?" He asked, rocking on the balls of his feet. Shikimi snorted.

"An old friend."

"Who?" The boy asked, looking interested. It was hard to imagine his father had once had a life before the one he now understood.

"It doesn't matter," Shikimi chuckled. "She's gone now."

"Like how grandma is gone?" Suna asked, worried. Ah, the ever popular euphemism for death. He had used it of course, when explaining his mother's sudden death to the children, not a season's passing ago.

"No, I don't believe so." Shikimi sighed. He looked over at the glassy surface of the water. The little fireflies were buzzing around the air lethargically. "I'm sure she has many human offspring, and a loving human man to take excellent care of her in a hut on the ground." Suna looked confused by this notion. Why would anyone live on the ground? To him it seemed senseless. But it was as if Shikimi was no longer talking to him, but to himself.

Shikimi was staring at the water, sitting perfectly still, and he felt his blood rush minimally as he remembered the passionate night they had spent in this very pool, making love and learning about one another. Her moans, and pleas, and gasps, and pants, and screams were all still locked away in the back of his mind.

He hoped she had those children. And that husband. And that little house in the field. He wished all those things and more for Miana. He hoped her husband was kind, and strong. He hoped her children were well-behaved and mindful. He hoped her house was filled with love, and warmth. He wished her nothing but happiness. He was happy. She should be happy, too.

Happier, even.

He no longer held his love for Miana close to his heart, but his respect for her was limitless.

She made him a real person…

Only then did he realize that Suna was tugging on his arm, attempting to gain his attention. "Yes?" He asked, looking down at his son, tearing his eyes away from the spring.

"I like playing here with you, and you sometimes bring the others to play here…" He suddenly announced. His next question had Shikimi grinning. "Did you bring your friend here to play with you, too?"

"Yes, I did," He said, chuckling.

"Did you two catch light bugs?" Suna asked excitedly.

"I can't say we ever did." Shikimi smiled, patting his son's head. Suna looked disappointed.

"That doesn't sound fun," He pointed out. Shikimi chuckled again. "What did you do then?" He demanded.

"When you're older," Shikimi smirked, petting him again. Suna pouted. His bad mood didn't seem to last long as he suddenly turned and sprinted off into another direction. Shikimi watched him for a moment, standing over the flowers, and looking around carefully, but his attention returned to his previous reverie.

He wondered if she really did have that and more? He should have carried her down the mountain and taken her directly home. Of course, at the time, it would have been unimaginable in his fury. He had scouted the entire mountain not two months after she left. He had been looking for any sign that she had been eaten, or killed by something. Not a morsel of evidence, could he find.

He was still unable to rest properly, and after a year, had gone as far as to go all the way to her human village. He had followed her scent. It was overwhelming. When he had gotten there the sight that had greeted him, he was ill prepared for.

There she was, hanging sheets out on the clothesline. Her green cotton dress was fluttering in the wind, and a little bow was in her hair. Never had he been so driven to reach out of his hiding place and rush at anything. He wanted to suddenly grab her and take her back home with him. They could be together. They could!

And then…

She scooped up a little bald baby. So small… His heart stopped in his chest, and his blood ran cold. She cooed and bounced him, tickling as she spoke to him as only women spoke to infants, in that high, slow, gentle voice. She called him Kunta. He squealed and gurgled as she kissed his face.

A man came out of the house, next. He picked the child out of her arms and she picked up the now empty basket the sheets had been in. The man was tall and well defined, with golden skin and shaggy auburn hair, though far darker than her own.

She had met someone. And they had a child together. His heart constricted painfully in his chest. This was a blow to him. Lenyunai was home, pregnant with their first child, as well. But somehow this seemed far more final than that.

The baby suddenly squealed and arched in his direction. His heart skipping a beat, Shikimi ensured he hid himself properly. Miana and the mystery man looked over in his direction, seeing what the baby was pointing towards. His human laughed her melodic laugh and cooed in the child's direction again.

"Just like his daddy," She laughed. "He sees and hears everything. It's actually quite amazing." She and the man and the child walked towards the house.

"Speaking of which," The man tried to say slowly, but she interrupted him.

"Please, I'm not in the mood for this, Da--" The door closed, and he could hear no more. He turned and sprinted home. The trees he did not avoid, he blasted through, sending debris flying and littering the forest floor.

Shikimi sighed at the memory.

"Daddy!" His son suddenly shrieked. His heart jumping in his chest, Shikimi whipped around, readying himself to attack some foe, but found himself relaxing immediately as Suna held his clasped hands up to him. "I caught one, I caught one!" He chanted excitedly.

"Oh really?" Shikimi smiled.

"I caught a lightening bug, daddy!"

"Good for you, son," He sighed, crouching down to the boy's level. Suna opened his hands fractionally to try and get a look at the little bug, but it promptly flew away. His shout of utter dismay brought a smile to Shikimi's face.

"Hey, now," Shikimi warned as the boy tried to jump and catch the little bug again. Suna looked up at him, curiously. "Let it go," The boy tilted his head, confused. "It's better off this way." He smiled. "Now come on, I think your mama is going to start to worry about us if we're not home soon." He smiled. Lenyunai would worry, too. He was sure he was going to get a dirty look from her the moment he stepped foot in the hut. He said they were going for a little walk. By now they could have gone to the bottom of the mountains and back.

"Okay," Suna pouted.

"Up then," Shikimi sighed as he picked the boy up and placed him on his shoulders. This was faster than waiting for the boy to try and catch up every couple hundred yards. A lot less complaining, too. (From both of them).

A firefly flitted past his face. It was interesting. The light was so dull, and yet it seemed so bright. It was a blinding spark in an otherwise gloomy world. It was short, but magnificent...

"Daddy?" Suna asked suddenly, in a small voice. Shikimi grunted. "Do you catch lightening bugs?" Shikimi smiled. Maybe his boy was worried about doing something too childish? How interesting.

"I've caught a few, but only one really good one." He said softly.

"A good one?" Suna asked, sounding excited.

"Yes, a very good one."

"What did you do with it?" He demanded, energetically.

Shikimi smiled softly to himself, as he turned back to the special spot, Suna propped up on his shoulders. "I let it go…" He whispered. Suna was silent. He leaned down and rested against his father's headdress, closing his eyes softly.

Shikimi turned and began to walk back home, towards his hut, and his life. And as the brush of the forest tickled his legs and grazed his arms, he sighed.

And through the still night air, the sound of old, white cotton suspended in a tree, blowing softly in the breeze, invited him back next year, for yet another reunion.

A/N: To avoid confusion: the man Miana was with was Daq. Not her lover, her brother trying to help her manage a household.

Review! This is the last chapter of this whole little series thing.

I'm thinking next story: fucking witches Because magic kicks ass.